Thoughts from the Top Rope 4.01.14: Top 30 Moves in WrestleMania History
Posted by Daniel Wilcox on 04.01.2014
In this week's Thoughts from the Top Rope we countdown the greatest moves in WrestleMania history, from Edge's flaming table Spear, to Undertaker Tombstoning Shawn Michaels into retirement and Stone Cold refusing to quit in the Sharpshooter and more!
Welcome to Thoughts from the Top Rope, with Daniel Wilcox.
We are one week away from WrestleMania XXX. Are you excited?
I'm hyped for the show purely because it's WrestleMania, but for me there's nothing "must-see" this year. It'll be a great moment if and when Daniel Bryan finally gets his revenge on Triple H and then goes on to win the strap, but I'm not as big of a fan as the guy as most are so it's not something I'm personally invested in. As for the Undertaker/Lesnar encountered, I'm intrigued to see if Taker can have a match of a similar calibre to the last five years but the outcome isn't in doubt so my interest there is minimal. Cena/Wyatt should be fun but the build has hardly been enthralling.
Still, it's WrestleMania so there's bound to be something for everyone to enjoy.
In honour of our guaranteed main event Triple Threat match, last week we counted down the top 30 WWE Triple Threat matches, a list topped by the two World Heavyweight Championship matches between Triple H, Shawn Michaels and Chris Benoit at WrestleMania XX and Backlash 2004. Having read all of the feedback from last week, the only match I feel I completely missed was the CM Punk defence against Daniel Bryan and Kane from No Way Out 2012. That was a great match that should've been somewhere around the middle of the list so kudos to the few people who remembered that one.
Today we look to WrestleMania's past and countdown the Top 30 Moves in WrestleMania history.
Having spent a few days compiling a list of 52 moves, cutting it down to 30 and then playing around with the order, I'm fairly confident this list is going to get slated. To try to avoid that as much as possible, I'm going to explain the criteria as clearly as I can. When compiling the list I took into account the following criteria;
The historical importance of the move: some of these inclusions are just finishers but there included because they lead to an important title change or post-match ramifications. The complexity/originality of the move: a lot of high spots from various ladder matches and the like are excluded but truly jaw-dropping moments are in. The move within the context of the match: if the move helps to further the story of the match, it's going to be pushed up the list. Memorability: The moves that first sprang to mind are the ones right at the top of the list. No surprises here.
Caveat: I also opted to only allow one move from any given match.
30. Christian Opens the Door to the Hardcore Championship [WrestleMania X-8]
This was a genuine laugh-out-loud WrestleMania moment. I loved the Hardcore title. At WrestleMania X-8 the title was changing hands in various backstage segments and as Might Molly skulked through the empty corridors attempting to avoid potential challengers, the top half of a door swung and knocked her clean out. The attacker proved to be a vicious Christian, who grinned maliciously as he pinned Molly to become champion. Not a particularly ground-breaking moment, but it's memorable.
29. Jeff Hardy's Original Epic Swanton [WrestleMania 2000]
Hardy pulled off something the similar the following year at WrestleMania, but this was the original and to me it's more memorable because of the location (in the aisle) and the camera work. Hardy lays out Bubba Dudley on a table before ascending a massive ladder. At the top of the ladder he takes a moment to take in he mammoth crowd before throwing caution to the wind and his body onto Bubba Ray. The No Mercy match with Edge and Christian was the foundation, but this match took all those involved to the next level.
28. Undertaker Lands on His Head [WrestleMania 25]
Some of the inclusions on this list wouldn't be here if not for human error and this is one such inclusion. It's also a moment that could well have turned out a hell of a lot worse. Undertaker pulled out his no hands dive for the first time in years at WrestleMania 22, but I don't recall him using it since this instance where he landed straight on his head after Shawn Michaels avoided the contact and pulled an innocent "cameraman" into harm's way. The crunch of the camera was a sickening sound but it could so easily have been Undertaker's neck.
27. Shawn Michaels' Busts Out a Piledriver [WrestleMania 23]
Shawn Michaels wound up challenging John Cena for the WWE Championship almost by accident when Triple H suffered an injury a couple months prior. So we had two faces in the main event of WrestleMania 23 , and even though it was Cena the fans were booing that night, it was Michaels who pulled out every trick in the book to try and get the win, including hitting a piledriver onto the steel steps. The move has been a rarity for a number of years, so seeing Michaels utilise it in such an important match really put over how desperately he wanted to win the title. Great story-telling.
26. Icon vs. Icon Ends with an Elbow [WrestleMania X-8]
It was one of the most anticipated encounters in the history of WrestleMania and one of the most electric crowds any of us have ever witnessed. Despite the fact that The Rock had been booed for the majority of the match against Hollywood Hulk Hogan, when he followed a pair of Rock Bottoms up with a People's Elbow, the crowd were going bananas. It was the exclamation point on a defining victory in the career of the Great One and an unforgettable WrestleMania moment.
25. Triple H Turns on X-Pac with a Pedigree [WrestleMania XV]
One year prior, seeing X-Pac rejoin his old buddy Triple H to kick-start a new era of D-Generation-X was a mark out moment. Fast forward to WrestleMania XV and Triple H turns on his buddy having decided to go it alone. This is an important moment because it served as the catalyst of Triple H push that would take him all the way to the title just a few months later cementing him as the number one bad guy in the company. Eventually X-Pac would rejoin DX along with the New Age Outlaws.
24. Triple H Tombstones The Undertaker [WrestleMania 27]
I've said on numerous occasions the true sign of a great Undertaker WrestleMania match comes when the performers are able to make you think that the Undertaker could actually lose. Only Shawn Michaels and Triple H have managed to make me believe that was a possibility, perhaps never moreso than the amazing moment Triple H mocked Taker's taunt before scooping him up an hitting a Tombstone, with Taker's signature pin no less. It was as dramatic a near fall as I can remember witnessing in a Taker match.
23. Donald Trump Spears Vince McMahon [WrestleMania 23]
This is neither an historic moment nor a particularly difficult manoeuvre, but there's no denying that a hell of a lot of people bought WrestleMania 23 to see either McMahon or Trump get shaved bald. Not only did they get to see McMahon get his head shaved, they also saw Trump get physical by tackling McMahon to the floor and delivering some awful right hands. A bizarre moment, but one that would get a hell of a lot of replay value around the world and that's why it makes the list.
22. Eddie Guerrero Outsmarts Kurt Angle to Retain WWE Championship [WrestleMania XX]
Everybody loved to watch Eddie Guerrero lie, cheat and steal his way to victory, but when defending the WWE Championship against Kurt Angle at WrestleMania XX, Guerrero got his defining WrestleMania moment when he outsmarting Angle, loosening his boot to the point that it fell off when Angle applied his signature submission, allowing the champion to surprise Angle with a roll-up and get the three count. I debate whether to include this as it's not an offensive move, but I decided that crucial counters are just as important a piece of story-telling as signature moves so it's in.
21. Warrior Splashes Hogan to Win the WWE Championship [WrestleMania VI]
The moment The Ultimate Warrior connected with his signature Splash and pinned Hogan – albeit barely – to win the WWE Championship, it signalled a definitive passing of the torch and the conclusion of one of the biggest matches in the sport's history. Warrior was the new guy, the new face of the company and the new champion, and all it took was a historic Splash.
20. Jeff Hardy Breaks Edge in Half... And a Ladder [WrestleMania 23]
Jeff Hardy earns another spot on the list for this insane dive that took both Edge and Hardy out of contention in WrestleMania 23's Money in the Bank Ladder match. It's historic in that it's the first time WWE broke a ladder in half. It's a brutal spot and one that has been imitated over the years, but I don't think anything quite tops the original. And besides, Hardy had to get a measure of revenge from a spot six years previous that might just also end up on this list.
19. Shawn Michaels Makes His Boyhood Dream Come True [WrestleMania XII]
After a gruelling 60-minute Iron Man match, neither Shawn Michaels nor Bret Hart had managed to earn a fall over the other and thus their epic encounter went into overtime. After a few more minutes of action, it took two super kicks for Shawn to beat Bret and ensure his boyhood dream became a reality as he won his first WWE Championship. It's one of the most replayed moments in WWE history and for good reason.
18. Shane McMahon Goes Coast to Coast [WrestleMania X-Seven]
This match encapsulated everything I enjoy about the McMahons – when it comes to the big pay off, they always go all-out despite their limitations. After a gloriously overbooked Street Fight, Shane McMahon performed his signature coast to coast dive, I believe for the first time, on his own father, who had a trash can positioned on his body. It was a wonderful moment and one that underlines my enjoyment of crazy McMahon brawls.
17. Mickie James is Finger-Lickin' Good [WrestleMania 22]
This is the second reason I opted to include counters in this list. This was the pinnacle of the greatest female angle WWE has run and the most memorable Divas match in the company's history. Just as Trish looked as though she was about to retain her title, Mickie James counters the Stratusfaction by grabbing the crotch of the champion. Much to the delight of the Chicago crowd, she then decided to lick her fingers in a very suggestive manner. By discombobulating the champion, Mickie would go on to win her first Women's Championship.
16. Triple H Submits to the STFU [WrestleMania 22]
Every one was so sure Triple H would be the guy to dethrone John Cena once and for all. The Chicago crowd was primed to blow the roof off the joint, but when Cena locked in the STF and force the Game to submit, the fans were stunned. The looks on some people's faces were absolutely priceless. This is the moment that really cementing Cena as the company's top guy and the man that would lead the company forward for the next decade. Remember this when people say Triple H has never put anybody over – especially considering it was his third Mania loss on the trot.
15. Finally... The Rock Beats Stone Cold [WrestleMania XIX]
I loved the symmetry here. The Rock, on his third attempt, finally beat Stone Cold at WrestleMania... and it took three Rock Bottoms to do it. The third was hit with such perfect venom that you knew it was over – not just the match but the career of Stone Cold. There was such finality about this match that suspicions were realised and we knew Austin was done. I also enjoyed the symmetry of Hogan using three leg drops to beat McMahon and Lesnar using three F5s to beat Angle all on the same show, highlighting the past, present and future of the company.
14. Stone Cold Kick Starts the Attitude Era with a Stunner [WrestleMania XIV]
You can argue all night and all day about when the Attitude Era truly begun, but for me it started when Austin won his first WWE Championship at WrestleMania XIV. And there was no more fitting way to do it than delivering a Stone Cold Stunner to Shawn Michaels, who would no wrestle again for over four years. With one Stunner, Austin cemented himself as the guy to lead the charge in the battle against WCW, a battle Austin would eventually win with some help from Rock, DX and others.
13. Randy Savages Hits Warrior with 5 Elbow Drops [WrestleMania VII]
This was another big win in the career of the Ultimate Warrior (although Randy would have his moment post-match) but there's an alarming moment in this match where Savage goes up top and hits Warrior with a flying elbow drop... and another... and another... and another... and another. That's five, for those keeping score at home. And the Warrior kicks out. That is mind-boggling. Imagine if Bryan floors Triple H with 5 knees next weekend, only for Hunter to pop up and hit the Pedigree for the win. Truly ground-breaking.
12. John Cena FUs Big Show for Maiden Championship [WrestleMania XX]
John Cena had not long turned face before he challenged Big Show for his United States Championship. This was Cena's first title in the company at his first WrestleMania. It also showed that John Cena was a guy who could overcome odds. And he's been doing it ever since. It's always an impressive visual to see Cena hoist a guy like Show up and deliver a FU, and if it wasn't for the fact that the spot had been done a couple of times before this match, this move would likely be higher than it already is.
11. Brock Lesnar Nearly Cripples Himself [WrestleMania XIX]
Again, I had to debate whether to include this because he doesn't technically connect, but it's an iconic moment and a brave attempt. A 300-pound Brock Lesnar goes to the top and attempts a Shooting Star Press and nearly breaks his damn neck in doing so. It's amazing that the match was continued, and that's a testament to the toughness of Lesnar and the ability of Kurt Angle to walk him through the remainder of the match. I'm not sure if capping off a title victory by actually hitting the move would have ranked this any higher.
10. Stone Cold Sells His Soul [WrestleMania X-Seven]
As amazing a match as it was, I have seen people criticise the conclusion of the Rock/Austin match at WrestleMania X-Seven, where Austin lays out The Rock with a plethora of steel chair shots. 411's own coverage of the match has even called it anti-climatic. But I thought it was perfect. It completely sold the idea that Austin would do anything to get the title. He'd already sided with Vince McMahon, but numerous Stone Cold Stunners couldn't get it done. So Austin went to town until the Rock was motionless and uncaringly pinned him for the three count and the title. Perfect story-telling.
9. Shelton Benjamin Steals the Show [WrestleMania 21]
I could've made a list based purely on Shelton's ladder spots but I'm keeping it to one entry. The first Money in the Bank Ladder match is still the very best, thanks largely to Shelton Benjamin's performance. Of all the amazing spots he's performed over the years the one that is always in my mind is the moment he runs up a leaning ladder and hits Chris Jericho with a clothesline to send both men crashing to the canvas. It completely took the audience by surprise
8. "I'm Sorry. I Love You," WHAM! [WrestleMania 24]
Whether this moment and this match feels tainted to you or not, you can't deny he impact this had at the time. In the build up to and during this bout between Ric Flair and Shawn Michaels, the company had used the story of Old Yeller in comparison to Ric Flair's dying career. The image of Ric Flair pulling himself to his feet and practically begging to be put out of his misery is forever etched into my memory. Shawn Michaels begrudgingly speaks the immortal words, "I'm sorry, I love you," before finally pulling the trigger on Ric Flair's career with one last Sweet Chin Music sending Flair off into the sunset.
7. A Rock Bottom Leads to Once in a Life [WrestleMania 27]
John Cena was challenging the Miz for the WWE Championship. The Rock was the guest host. But six days earlier, Cena had hit the Rock with an Attitude Adjustment and there was inevitably going to be retaliation. That retaliation came in the form of a Rock Bottom that would kick start a two-year rivalry between John Cena and The Rock. You can say what you like about the matches, but there was no doubt that these encounters were historic and a big draw. And it all started with a WrestleMania Rock Bottom that cost John Cena the same championship he would beat The Rock for two years later.
6. Undertaker Tombstones Shawn Michaels into Retirement [WrestleMania XXVI]
Shawn Michaels is my all-time favourite professional wrestler, bar none. So it was a damn shame to see him retire, but it was so fitting to see him go out with a five-star match. And talk about an exclamation point. Undertaker finished off the Heartbreak Kid with the most emphatic Tombstone piledriver you are ever likely to see, leaping into the air before dropping Michaels on his head. One three count later and Michaels' career was done and I think we all know we won't see Shawn wrestle again. But what a career. And what a Tombstone.
5. Stone Cold Steve Austin Refuses to Quit [WrestleMania 13]
It's another iconic WrestleMania moment involving the Texas Rattlesnake. Again, I had a debate on my hands about how to justify including this, but the Sharpshooter applied by Bret Hart was directly responsible for this legendary and star-making moment so it certainly qualifies. I talked earlier about WrestleMania XIV kick-starting the Attitude Era, but you can argue this moment is even more important as the fans bgean to embrace Stone Cold, quite naturally, for his refusal to give in. The image of the blood trickling into Austin's mouth is something many of us will never forget. It made Austin a legend.
4. Revolutionizing the Industry – Shawn Michaels Splashes Razor Ramon [WrestleMania X]
Shawn Michaels' ladder match with Razor Ramon is one of the industry's most iconic matches and truly changed the direction the in-ring product was going. There are very, very few clips in the history of professional wrestling that are replayed as much as Shawn perched atop a ladder, and leaping off to deliver a splash to Razor Ramon. It was one of few true high spots in a more physical encounter, but it was certainly the most inspiring and the most memorable. If this match didn't exist or didn't succeed, wrestling as we know it today we be a whole hell of a lot different.
3. The Flaming Table Spear [WrestleMania 22]
I love this match, and I love this moment. I love the way Lita looked that night. But this is the only instance that you will see fire at a WrestleMania. It's WWE most hardcore match. There's a table, it's on fire, and Edge spears Mick Foley off the apron and into the flames. It's an incredible moment, the type we never thought we would see in WWE and certainly wouldn't today. Perhaps more importantly, the moment cemented Edge as a total and utter badass who would remain in the main event scene from this moment to the moment he retired as World Heavyweight Champion. This move also gave Mick Foley his WrestleMania moment, even if he was on the wrong end. Career-defining in every sense of the word.
2. Edge Breaks Jeff Hardy in Half [WrestleMania X-Seven]
An absolutely perfect moment in time. Jeff Hardy is clutching at the Tag Team Championships, but Bubba Dudley moves the ladder out from under him. Hardy tries to hang on with his feet but can't and ends up swinging with nothing but air and canvas beneath his feet. Edge is perched on a 20-foot ladder ready to pounce, and pounce he does. The Spear connects perfectly and Hardy lands flat on his back after falling to the mat below. Edge's sell tells the whole story. Jim Ross is perfect on commentary. This spot has been replayed so many times and deservedly so. It so nearly took the top spot and maybe should have. There is no spot in a ladder match that has matched this for its execution or its excitement. This sort of thing is the reason why the majority of guys in these three teams became bonafide superstars in singles competition.
1. Hulk Hogan Slams Andre the Giant [WrestleMania III]
This has to be number one. It wasn't the first time Andre had been slammed. It wasn't a particularly difficult move to perform, nor was it the most impressive feat of strength that we've witnessed on the grand stage of WrestleMania. It is, however, the most iconic moment in the history of the sport that we like to call professional wrestling. Just listen to the response of that crowd when Hogan scoops Andre up and drops him with the slam. Moments like this are the reason why we love professional wrestling, but perhaps no moment has ever been so pivotal to the history of sports entertainment as this one. Drama, excitement, story-telling, history, all rolled into one. And all it took was a simple scoop slam. Granted, that scoop slam was performed on a twelve-tonne man in front of 500,000 fans in attendance, but it was just a scoop slam. It just so happened to be a scoop slam that is definitively the most memorable move not just in WrestleMania history, but in professional wrestling history.